Mario Kart is essentially the perfect party game. There’s nothing quite like sending a green shell soaring into the back of a friend, then watching as the smug smile fades from their face: it’s an amazing feeling.
But, as we all know, things can change fairly quickly in the world of Mario Kart. One moment you’re on top, the next you’re fighting for 11th against The Villager or one of Bowser’s kids. That’s why we’ve decided to assemble a list of tips and tricks on how you can become a better Mario Kart player — just in time for the launch of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch.
Let’s start at the beginning: with how to take an early lead. In every Mario Kart game, there’s a technique called a boost start (also sometimes referred to as a turbo start or a head start). This can be activated at the beginning of each race by holding down the acceleration button from when the second beep sounds up until the screen says, “Go!”. Get the timing right and you’ll fly forward, ahead of the competition. Fail and the vehicle will stall. The boost start is the best way to receive an early advantage in a race.
You’re in first place and you’ve just got a green shell. Problem is, there’s no one around to use it on. What do you do? You may be tempted to throw it away, to see if you can get a more useful item, but this would be foolish.
Instead, hold down on the button that releases the weapon. This will place it directly behind you, acting as a temporary shield against incoming red shells. It’s an added bit of security that may prevent last minute upsets from occurring.
A lot of Mario Kart players have a problem with taking tight corners. They’ll go into bends far too quickly, and come flying off the road. Fortunately, there’s a fix for this.
Every vehicle in the game has a drift feature that will allow you to take sharp turns quickly and efficiently. To make better use of this, activate the drift just prior to heading into the corner, then follow the road around. This takes some getting used to, but once you master the technique you’ll see a definite improvement in how well you perform.
One of the easiest ways to improve at Mario Kart is by memorizing the courses. Almost every course has a secret tunnel or hidden platforms that will skip a portion of the race, allowing you to overtake others. For example, in Wario Gold Mine, you can follow the mine carts in the cave section to find a shortcut that has a couple of added boost pads.
Shortcuts can truly be the difference between winning and losing a cup, so make a mental note of any that you come across.
This one may seem like common sense, but I’ve seen multiple people make this mistake while playing.
You’ve just picked up a mushroom, but the course ahead is full of twist and turns. Desperate to get back into the race, you activate the boost and pray for the best, but immediately fall off the side of the track. It’s a silly mistake — and one that’s easily avoided by having a little bit of patience.
What you need to do instead is hold onto the mushroom and wait for a straight stretch of road. This way you won’t go flying off the track and will use the full boost, rather than having to break halfway through to turn.
Car and bike builds are extremely important in Mario Kart. They determine your acceleration, speed, and handling. Before entering into a tournament or a race with friends, double-check you’ve chosen a vehicle that’s well balanced in all these attributes.
A versatile car or bike build will make a huge difference, allowing you to recover faster after getting hit and take corners easier.
Mushrooms aren’t the only way to increase your speed in Mario Kart. You can also use player slipstreams to get an added boost. To do this, simply position yourself behind another player and stay there for a while. This will give you a temporary increase in speed, allowing you to bump them aside and get in front.
This technique is also referred to as drafting, and is used in cycling and other sports. The method behind it is that the vehicle in front is absorbing most of the drag, which reduces the force on the person behind. In Mario Kart, it’s the perfect trick for when you need to overtake players right near the finish.
When not glued to the latest release, Jack Yarwood spends his time writing and talking about videogames online. You can follow what he’s up to on his Twitter and on his blog.